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Old February 10th, 2009, 06:00 PM   #1
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Merlin and FX1000

Has anyone used a Merlin w/o vest with a FX1000?
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Old February 10th, 2009, 07:39 PM   #2
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No, but being similar to the FX1/Z1 it will fly/feel the same.
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Old February 10th, 2009, 10:09 PM   #3
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Thanks, Nick. I have decided to go ahead and pick one up and buy the vest later.
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Old February 11th, 2009, 10:34 AM   #4
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I loved flying Z1 on handheld merlin, FX1000 just a bit heavier than Z1, but (bare) Z1 is not at the top of the merlin's capacity,
no doubts, you gonna love it :)
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Old February 11th, 2009, 10:51 AM   #5
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Thanks Buba, I hope so. I hope I can use it without the vest for more than 1 or 2 minutes. I walked around with a ten pound dumbbell last night pretending I was shooting with a Merlin and it got old real quick!
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Old February 11th, 2009, 11:10 AM   #6
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I got the Merlin with the arm/vest for an XH A1. The XH A1 package equipped the way I shot (1/2 pound Lee bellows lens hood, one 4x4 filter, shotgun mic and wireless receiver) is about 7 pounds. That's at the upper limit of the Merlin, but it balances out fine with the extra weights you get with the arm and vest.

I can use it hand held for short segments but I wouldn't want to do that for long. The reason I got the Merlin over the Pilot was because there will be some occasions where I want to shoot in a moving vehicle without the arm and vest and I can do that with the handheld unit.

With the Canon stripped down to its standard lens hood and both mics off, it can balance with the weights you get with the basic Merlin. I don't know what your FX100 weighs, but probably it would be close.
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Old February 11th, 2009, 11:41 AM   #7
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Good stuff Bill, thanks.

My FX1000 weighs 4lb 9oz without the battery.

I am now on a see-saw with this purchase, and have swung back to reconsider it. I do this with major purchases (I consider this major for me) and it drives me crazy.

For example, what to do with the rig when I get to the car? Do I have to dismantle it? Then get to the park and put it together again? Or can it be carefully laid down in the trunk on a cushion and then picked up when I get to the park. On occasion the photographer and bridal party have beat me to the park and I can't be playing with the Merlin while they are already shooting. How do I remove the camera from the Merlin without a stand? Does someone have to hold it for me?

These questions are nagging at me. I often go from church to park to reception, as many of us do. Without a vest at the park I would be stuck and would tire out quickly. I can't know when I can spring for the vest, it would be awhile. And I don't want an assistant with me for just the purpose of giving me a break.

What to do?

I don't know. This is a toughie. If not for the expense of the vest and arm it would be a no brainer.

Initially I would keep my shots short, but during a getting ready segment I can't hold this thing for 30 minutes, but cannot go back and forth from it to a monopod or tripod either. And the getting ready thing is when I most want to use this thing. Without a vest I am not sure it would work at all.

Clearly the bottom line rests on the vest. I have to do some projections, look ahead and see when I can afford to get one. Otherwise, using this thing handheld would be as much of a hassle for run and gun shooting as it would be a help.

I very much appreciate all of your feedback, it has been invaluable in this process for me.
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Old February 11th, 2009, 01:55 PM   #8
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The Merlin comes with a mounting plate for the camera. Once you get it balanced, you flip a little lever and slide the camera and plate off, then you can lay it down. It folds in the middle, and the system comes with a nice case with foam cut out to perfection to hold the Merlin and weights and accessories; no need to buy a case. Just takes a minute to take it out of its case, unfold and lock it, put the weights on and clamp on the camera.

They even give you a plate threaded for tripod screws that clamps onto the mounting plate, so you can put the camera on your tripod without having to take off the Merlin plate. It's a plate you screw to your tripod plate. Then the Merlin camera plate clamps to it.

It helps to have a C-stand to initially balance the system. You also need to buy the Merlin's C-stand adapter, which is under 40 bucks. This is simply an arm that attaches to any C-stand (or light stand, for that matter), and sticks out about a foot. The Merlin's handle slips onto the adapter arm just as it does to the vest's arm. You can balance without it, but it's well worth the 40 bucks to do it this way. You could use a light stand, but be sure to sandbag it so it doesn't tip over with your camera on it.

Once you've got things balanced, take the camera off, put the Merlin in its case and away you go. Snap on the camera and you're set. Generally you'll have to adjust fore and aft a little bit, sometimes lateral, but it's easy to do while hand holding. In fact, if you want, for example, to walk low and shoot tilted up, you simply adjust backwards till the camera tilts. So you're always tweaking the balance in regular use.

If you've never used any stabilizer before, the Merlin is easy to balance as is any Steadicam rig. However, it might take you a little more practice to get good with it. A large Steadicam rig with a lot more weight is actually easier to use smoothly than the Merlin. You have to walk a little softer with the Merlin. But it's not a big deal and you should be able to get into it pretty quickly. I practiced for an hour or so a day for a few days before my first shoot. I find it easy to walk smoothly and follow people; also walking backward and pivoting to then walk forward is pretty easy for me. What's difficult is making a smooth controlled move and coming to a stop at a critical point. For example, if I wanted to walk up to a door and hold on the knob for a second or two, that may take me 3 or 4 tries to get it right. But just following people, I can do that easily.

Back to the getting in the car...they also sell a bag for about $150 or so that allows you to leave the camera on. The Merlin folds up and you just set it in the bag, which has foam inserts to cradle things properly. If you want some more input on the Merlin, call up Joseph Muller at Calumet in Chicago. When I was ready to buy he set up an appointment for me with the Steadicam rep, I drove up and spent a couple of hours with the guy, who got it all adjusted for me and provided some excellent hands on instruction that probably saved me a week of fumbling around on my own.
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Old February 11th, 2009, 02:36 PM   #9
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Bill, that was a wonderful breakdown on its use. Sounds manageable!
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